|Nothing in Life is Free
(NILIF) - A Hands - Off Approach to Being a Good Pack Leader
behavior can be caused by many things, including undetected
illness. No behavior modification program should begin without
first taking the dog to a veterinarian for a complete physical
examination. While you're there, give your vet a printed copy of
this page and ask if it would be an appropriate technique for
you to try. The NILIF program is an accepted standard in dog
training/behavior but it is not, and is not intended to be, a
substitute for an in-person, professional evaluation of your
dog's behavior. This technique is intended for dogs in good
health and of sound mind and stable temperament.
NILIF program is remarkable because it's effective for such a
wide variety of problems. A shy, timid dog becomes more relaxed
knowing that he has nothing to worry about, his owner is in
charge of all things. A dog that's pushing too hard to become
"top dog" learns that the position is not available
and that his life is far more enjoyable without the title.
It is equally successful with dogs that fall anywhere between
those two extremes. The program is not difficult to put into
effect and it's not time consuming if the dog already knows a
few basic obedience commands. I've never seen this technique
fail to bring about a positive change in behaviour, however, the
change can be more profound in some dogs than others. Most
owners use this program in conjunction with other behaviour
modification techniques such as coping with fear or treatment
for aggression. It is a perfectly suitable technique for the dog
with no major behaviour problems that just needs some fine
ATTENTION ON DEMAND
The program begins by eliminating attention on demand. When your
dog comes to you and nudges your hand, saying "pet me! pet
me!" ignore him. Don't tell him "no", don't push
him away. Simply pretend you don't notice him. This has worked
for him before, so don't be surprised if he tries harder to get
your attention. When he figures out that this no longer works,
he'll stop. In a pack situation, the top ranking dogs can demand
attention from the lower ranking ones, not the other way around.
When you give your dog attention on demand you're telling him
that he has more status in the pack than you do. Timid dogs
become stressed by having this power and may become clingy.
They're never sure when you'll be in charge so they can't relax.
What if something scary happens, like a stranger coming in the
house? Who will handle that? The timid dog that is demanding of
attention can be on edge a lot of the time because he has more
responsibility than he can handle.
Some dogs see their ability to demand attention as confirmation
that they are the "alpha", then become difficult to
handle when told to "sit" or "down" or some
other demand is placed on them. It is not their leadership
status that stresses them out, it's the lack of consistency.
They may or may not actually be alpha material, but having no
one in the pack that is clearly the leader is a bigger problem
than having the dog assume that role full time. Dogs are
happiest when the pack order is stable. Tension is created by a
constant fluctuation of pack leadership.
Your dog already knows that he can demand your attention and he
knows what works to get that to happen. As of today, it no
longer works, but he doesn't know that yet. We all try harder at
something we know works when it stops working. If I gave you a
twenty dollar bill every time you clapped your hands together,
you'd clap a lot. But, if I suddenly stopped handing you money,
even though you were still clapping, you'd clap more and clap
louder. You might even get closer to me to make sure I was
noticing that you were clapping. You might even shout at me
"Hey! I'm clapping like crazy over here, where's the
money?". If I didn't respond at all, in any way, you'd
stop. It wasn't working anymore. That last try -- that loud,
frequent clapping is an extinction burst. If, however, during
that extinction burst, I gave you another twenty dollar bill
you'd be right back in it. It would take a lot longer to get you
to stop clapping because you just learned that if you try hard
enough, it will work.
When your dog learns that the behaviours that used to get him
your attention don't work any more he's going to try harder and
he's going to have an extinction burst. If you give him
attention during that time you will have to work that much
harder to get him turned around again. Telling him
"no" or pushing him away is not the kind of attention
he's after, but it's still attention. Completely ignoring him
will work faster and better.
YOU HAVE THE POWER
As the human and as his owner you have control of all things
that are wonderful in his life. This is the backbone of the
NILIF program. You control all of the resources. Playing,
attention, food, walks, going in and out of the door, going for
a ride in the car, going to the dog park. Anything and
everything that your dog wants comes from you. If he's been
getting most of these things for free there is no real reason
for him to respect your leadership or your ownership of these
things. Again, a timid dog is going to be stressed by this
situation, a pushy dog is going to be difficult to handle. Both
of them would prefer to have you in charge.
To implement the NILIF program you simply have to have your dog
earn his use of your resources. He's hungry? No problem, he
simply has to sit before his bowl is put down. He wants to play
fetch? Great! He has to "down" before you throw the
ball. Want to go for a walk or a ride? He has to sit to get his
lead snapped on and has to sit while the front door is opened.
He has to sit and wait while the car door is opened and listen
for the word (I use "OK") that means "get into
the car". When you return he has to wait for the word that
means "get out of the car" even if the door is wide
open. Don't be too hard on him. He's already learned that he can
make all of these decisions on his own. He has a strong history
of being in control of when he gets these resources. Enforce the
new rules, but keep in mind that he's only doing what he's been
taught to do and he's going to need some time to get the hang of
You're going to have to pay attention to things that you
probably haven't noticed before. If you feed your dog from your
plate do you just toss him a green bean? No more. He has to earn
it. You don't have to use standard obedience commands, any kind
of action will do. If your dog knows "shake" or
"spin around" or "speak" use those commands.
Does your dog sleep on your bed? Teach him that he has to wait
for you to say "OK" to get on the bed and he has to
get down when you say "off". Teach him to go to his
bed, or other designated spot, on command. When he goes to his
spot and lays down tell him "stay" and then release
him with a treat reward. Having a particular spot where he stays
is very helpful for when you have guests or otherwise need him
out of the way for a while. It also teaches him that free run of
the house is a resource that you control. There are probably
many things that your dog sees as valuable resources that I
haven't mentioned here.
The NILIF program should not be a long, drawn out process. All
you need to do is enforce a simple command before allowing him
access to what he wants. Dinner, for example, should be a two or
three second encounter that consists of nothing more than saying
"sit", then "good dog!", then putting the
bowl down and walking away.
ATTENTION AND PLAY
Now that your dog is no longer calling the shots you will have
to make an extra effort to provide him with attention and play
time. Call him to you, have him "sit" and then lavish
him with as much attention as you want. Have him go get his
favourite toy and play as long as you both have the energy. The
difference is that now you will be the one initiating the
attention and beginning the play time. He's going to depend on
you now, a lot more than before, to see that he gets what he
needs. What he needs most is quality time with you. This would
be a good time to enroll in a group obedience class. If his
basic obedience is top notch, see about joining an agility class
or fly ball team.
DOES *NOT* MEAN THAT YOU HAVE TO RESTRICT THE AMOUNT OF
ATTENTION YOU GIVE TO YOUR DOG.
The NILIF concept speaks to who initiates the attention
(you!), not the amount of attention. Go ahead and call your
dog to you 100 times a day for hugs and kisses!! You can
demand his attention, he can no longer demand yours!
Within a day or two your dog will see you in a whole new light
and will be eager to learn more. Use this time to teach new
things, such as 'roll over' or learn the specific names of
If you have a shy dog, you'll see a more relaxed dog. There is
no longer any reason to worry about much of anything. He now has
complete faith in you as his protector and guide. If you have a
pushy dog he'll be glad that the fight for leadership is over
and his new role is that of devoted and adored pet.
|How to be your Dog�s Alpha all of the time
- Best Buddy Dog Training & Daycare Facility
Dogs communicate to each other through the use of body commands, not verbal commands. The mother dog will use her body to lead her pups and any vocalization that she gives is usually a low and guttural growl. Many of my clients, when confronted with a dog that is excited, whether it is good excitement (happy that you are home) or bad (trying to bite your neighbor) make the following mistakes:
#1: Using Multiple Commands:
If your dog has not responded to your initial command, guaranteed he is not going to respond to the next five commands. Your dog has �tuned you out� and any verbalization you continue to make will be continually ignored. Remember, the pack leader uses body language not verbalization to get what he wants. If your dog is jumping at the door or on someone at the door, don�t keep commanding him to sit, physically stop him from jumping with a collar and leash or use your body and block the door.
The Alpha dog will stand tall in front of an object, facing a pack member, making direct eye contact and using his body language to tell the pack member to back off. As your dog�s Alpha you should stand tall in front of the door or the person, stare and don�t allow your dog to approach in that manner. Vocalization is not needed but if you want to say �No� using a low and guttural voice this should also stop your dog. If your dog is still not responding, and he may have the knowledge that he has �worn you down before�. Place your leash on your collar and correct. Do not praise for obedience or if your dog calms down at this point, that will make him going into that excited behavior again.
Also, you don�t need to use verbal praise all of the time. Dogs do not cheer when another responds to a body gesture. While some dogs do require verbal praise as encouragement when training, many dogs become too excited when praised and try to match their owner�s voice excitement with either barking or jumping. A simple pat or touch by you as handler is all that is needed most of the time.
#2: Raising their Voices:
When a pack leader reprimands a pup, it is a low guttural growl, not a high pitched bark. A high pitched sound shows excitement, so if you are yelling at your dog, all that you are really doing is exciting your dog. Now, you can use a high pitched voice for praise but remember we don�t want to overexcite your dog. Many dogs become stimulated too easily so if you are trying to instill calmness, do not use your voice for praise but your hands as reinforcement, by way of a simple pat or gentle touch.
#3: Responding to excitement or frenzy in your dog with #1 or #2 above:
If your dog is excited do not acknowledge it by yelling commands above the barking. Let me translate a typical situation that happens daily as your dog views it: You come home from work and your dog is barking and jumping on you. Your reaction is to tell him ok or praise him or yell a command to sit, loud enough so he can hear it above his barking: Dog translation: bark louder and get more excited.
Luckily for me, every day I have the opportunity to watch dogs interact with each other. And I have seen how dogs correct each other and how an Alpha dog reacts with other dogs when this happens. When a young pup is jumping on an Alpha dog, the Alpha dog stands tall sometimes turning his head from the puppy in the opposite direction. His head, ears and tail are raised high, the Alpha dog makes no eye contact and his hair down his back is hackled.
If the puppy does not stop acting obnoxiously there is a quick, low guttural growl with a snap, sometimes making contact with his teeth. At this point the puppy usually walks away or hits the ground, rolling over and showing submission. The excitement has ended and each goes about their business.
How should you respond to your dog jumping on you? Like an Alpha dog would. Stand tall with your eyes facing the ceiling; turn your back towards him if he is jumping towards your face. Make no eye contact and say nothing; if your dog continues and he will because his previous experience has taught him that you will give in, grab your leash and place it on the dog�s neck (slip it over his head like a noose) and correct.
Say nothing, when your dog is calmly sitting, simply walk away from him and do not pet or praise. Remember, the Alpha dog will walk away and ago about his business. Keep the leash in your hands as you walk away so if he jumps on you as you turn your back to leave him, correct. This correction should be meaningful enough to make your dog lay down in submission.
Being the Alpha or the dominant pack leader does not depend on size or strength, the pack leader is the strongest in his own head. The pack leader is calm and confident all of the time and rarely vocalizes; in order to be the pack leader you must imitate how a �canine� pack leader reacts and interacts with his pack 100% of the time. The pack leader is not influenced by outside stimuli or by feelings or emotions of his pack members. The pack leader treats each pack member the same and does not take into account previous experiences of a new pack member.
- Best Buddy Dog Training & Daycare Facility
Last month my German Shepherd Dog Anya was selected for a part in a movie filming in New York City. Anya had to play the role of a stray dog �meandering� on the streets of Manhattan. This was a big stretch for a bitch that does everything fast; but as always she lived up to my expectations and then some.
However, if you have ever worked on a television or movie set you know that a lot of time you sit around waiting for the scene to be set up. We waited about five hours for the crew to get to our scene and prepare it.
It was a great June evening and the City was alive. There had to be at least 40 to 50 dogs that were out for walks with their owners. All breeds and all sizes of dogs passed by the movie set that evening. There were small Chihuahuas, many medium sized mixed breeds and numerous large dogs. I saw at least 5 pit bulls and 3 bull terriers. Many of the owners knew each other so they would stop, say their hellos, the dogs would sniff each other and then they would move on.
This went on for hours at a time. Each owner had a different collar and leash on their dog. Some had a six foot leashes, others had flexi leashes. Some had prong collars while others walked their dogs wearing a harness. What struck me immediately was that, these dogs were not pulling their owners; and they were not growling at other dogs or people or lunging at other dogs or people. These dogs were not phased by the traffic, the noise or the mass chaos of people around them.
These dogs were better than most of my clients walking into a basic or intermediate class. These dogs were better not because of better breeding or more training, these dogs were better behaved because they were walked many times a day. From a young puppy they were walked for exercise and for housebreaking. New York City is a lively place so the dogs had to get used to people and sounds from a young age. They were walked several times per day so they were never in a �rush� to go out; the walk was not something special that was done once a week. This activity was not novel, so the walk was something done at a leisurely pace.
The Importance of the Walk
Living in the suburbs with big yards is one of the worst things that happened to the �pet dog� in this decade. Exercise is left to a ball throw in the yard, not a walk. I tell all of my beginners at their first lesson to get outside and walk their dog at least 20 minutes per day.
The walk is so important on many levels. First, the walk teaches the dog that you are Alpha. When you are walking a puppy, most lag behind, so you are teaching them by your body language that they are not Alpha and that they should be walking behind you. As they get older, they are used to this being their position so this is easily taught by using the command �heel�. Second, the walk stimulates a dog�s mind. The dog is taking in so many scents and sights that not only will the walk physically tire your dog but he will also be mentally tired from thinking about the smells and sights he took in on the walk. Third, the walk is a way to socialize your dog with people and other dogs.
You will rarely see a dog trainer with his or her personal dog in a dog park. They may go to the dog park to train their dog but not to run and play with the other dogs. I would never have my dog in a dog park; I don�t want my dogs picking up other dogs bad habits. The walk socializes them. The walk teaches the dog that there are other people out there in the universe and that they have to adjust to new people all of the time. The dog has to adjust to and accept the new faces of both people and dogs that they are meeting on this walk.
Many dogs are frustrated when on the leash because they can�t do what they want to do and see whom they want to see so they become aggressive; this is called leash frustration. If the dog is walked infrequently, everything is exciting and new, and if you do not let him investigate, he becomes frustrated. But a dog that is walked often usually doesn�t have this frustration because it is not novel. Dogs that are walked often are not frazzled by new people, new dogs, loud sounds or chaos on the streets.
A change in their behavior during a walk is not going to happen overnight. These dogs that I saw in NYC were started as young pups, not older dogs. But you will see a change in your dog when you integrate a walk into its daily routine. A yard is the worse thing for a dog. A dog needs walks for socialization, for mental stimulation and for physical stimulation.
Walking your dog regularly often will release the leash frustration that many dogs have. But I caution you not to let your dog drag you and pull you from tree to tree. A walk is supposed to teach him that you are his Alpha so you must set certain limitations during the walk and he must obey them. Your dog can NEVER pull you on a walk but doesn�t need to focus on you�re the whole time. Let him or her sniff at your discretion but remember it is a walk for physical exercise also and stopping every two minutes is not physical enough of a walk.
If you live in a rural area, drive your dog to the city and walk him. Get him around noises, sites, traffic and people. Socialize him by walking. Don�t stop and let him greet everyone, he may not like that, but get him out and about and get him used to ignoring people and other dogs. Don�t just bring him to a dog park to run and play, teach him about the world by showing him the world. It is similar to driving your child across country to learn about different states. Leave your yard for parties and quick restroom uses by your dog. Walk him every day and I guarantee that you will see a behavioral change in him that you could not imagine. And, it is better for your health also.
Beth Bradley began studying animal behavior and dog training at 12 years of age. She became a New Jersey State Animal Control Officer in 1986. Beth graduated Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminal Justice. Throughout her schooling, Beth worked and studied under many well-renowned animal behaviorists and trainers. Beth formed her own company in 1989 and has made dog training her full time career since 1995. Beth is also a writer for the Animal Companion, she has produced CD-Roms and DVD�s on training and is author of a training book titled Real World Dog Training.
Beth is a member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America � Working Dog Association, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America, and she is Secretary and Training Director of the Greater Philadelphia Schutzhund Club. Beth actively competes in both American Kennel Club and Schutzhund Trials both in the United States of America and Europe. Beth is a certified Canine Good Citizen Evaluator for the American Kennel Club. Beth can be contacted via the web at www.dog-trainer.biz or her business (973) 742-5088.
|LET�S ROLL�.. Carting
This is the first issue of �Let�s Roll� and hopefully, with interest, not the last. This is going to start out slow, but once you get �rolling� you will be enjoying the Team Spirit that is �Carting�. For the more experienced people, please have patience; we will begin at the very beginning but will move right along in no time! This is not a cheap venture. First you must decide on the type of harness to use and the type of cart you wish to purchase and where you�re going to purchase your equipment. Both decisions depend on what you see in your future with Carting � or at least your best guess! Now let�s begin.
First you will need to get your canine use to a harness. The classic harness, and most favorable for Carting is a �Siwash� harness, however, that is not the only type available. There is a �Varisty� harness that is quite versatile if your going to do other events like Tracking, and a Breast Plate harness which harnesses quickly.
Siwash � puts weight on the breastplate with complete freedom of movement in the shoulders, elbows and legs, good for frequent carters, comes in various colors.
Varsity � versatile comes apart for tracking, quality made leather and easily adjustable.
Breastplate � puts weight on the breastplate, however, does restrict some shoulder movement, easy to harness, great for the casual user.
Since Carting in the beginning is pretty much an individual sport and mostly up to you to begin and take your initial steps on your own. There is a carting CD out that is available on
www.dogworks.com that is fantastic, about $35, but worth it to encourage you and get you started on your own. You may even want to split the cost with someone and share the video!
Thankfully there are but two-competition regulation type carts available, A two-wheeled railed competition Cart, and a two-wheeled Sulky (as pictured above).
A two-wheeled railed competition Cart resembles a wagon and you can use it to load items or haul brush. It can be used in Carting Started, Carting Intermediate but not for Carting Excellent.
A two-wheeled Sulky can be used for Carting Started, Carting Intermediate and Carting Excellent, however, it is more difficult to load 40 pounds and secure it on the seat of a Sulky, but it can be done.
There are several online sites where you can purchase your equipment. It is an individual choice that no one can make for you � but we can give you the information so you can make the choice. Please do not believe that in any way is the mentioning of a company an endorsement � it�s just a fact that this is where you can purchase your items. Locally here in Florida, and listed below, there is also someone who will manufacture a gorgeous cart for you at nominal expense. You can also make your own cart, if you really want to and there are several sites available to assist you one example listed below. However, you will have to order your harness, there is no way around that. Here is a list that contains not only items, but information:
Peg Bowman, custom carts � 561-339-0645 cell phone
Please familiarize yourself with Carting on the American Rottweiler Club website, and the Carting Coordinator Dr. Tommy Casiango is e-mail available on the site for any questions you may have. Even if you do not want to cart in competition, understanding requirements will help you understand the basics.
To be ready to cart your dog should be familiar with obedience, they do not have to be proficient in it, but they must be able to take direction from you on lead to begin with. They should be able to do left turns, right turns, circles, halt, and (sit or stand) stay. Being able to complete a down stay is also preferable. You can start practicing now � while your waiting for your equipment, oh and one of the trickier things to do is back-up in a straight line about 3 feet. That is easily practiced in your hallway!
The next issue will be on harnessing up and getting use to wearing a harness (no matter which kind you purchase), as well as starting to drag traces, then on to other items.
Otherwise let me leave you with this thought, �In this day and age of BSL what is more approachable than a rottweiler Carting maybe even in a Holiday Parade�..well, perhaps a rottweiler doing Therapy. But you can�t see them in the Macy�s Thanksgiving Parade � that would be pretty cool rottweilers carting or maybe even a float with the ARC logo and it divided up into sections; carting, therapy, herding, obedience, conformation for the #1 Dog & Bitch,
SAR, tracking & agility.�
We need to push. Until then let�s roll!
Start a Carting Craze
again! PLEASE make
sure to read this entire issue before harnessing up � it will
make success much easier for you and your dog by following steps
in order! By now
you should have your harness.
Depending on which harness you have decided to purchase
there will be a slightly different approach to harnessing up,
however, I will make a concerted effort to make the instructions
as simple and easy to read as possible. For those of you who purchased the �Carting Video� from
Dogworks you will probably have an easier time understanding my
description since you can watch it step by step, but if not here
harness up with the following:
� Have your dog sit � stay- take the harness and place your
arm through the neck piece with the harness loop on the
underside of your arm facing you, the harness will seem to
separate so you can notice a right and left side, take the
opening and place it over your dogs head, the loop on the
breastplate should place directly over your dogs breast bone if
so you have put it on correctly, the harness will seem to
separate and each side will lay on either side of the dog and
you should be able to see the area that you will place each paw
through one at a time, right paw then left paw, it will fit up
and around the shoulder freely and you can snap the free
section, which runs thru a loop over the shoulder blades of the
dog, on the underbelly of the dog which will hold the harness in
place. If you
practice this a few times the dog will get use to harnessing up
Have your dog sit � stay- take the harness and place it over
the dog�s head the breast plate section is usually covered
with sheep skin and that will place over the dogs breast bone
from side to side while the harness section of leather will
simply fit over the dogs head running from shoulder to shoulder
over the back of the dog and most can be adjusted for fit.
If you practice this a few times the dog will get use to
harnessing up easily.
harness is more complicated, unfortunately I cannot describe
harnessing with this equipment � however, if you bought a
varsity harness instructions are included.
If you do not understand them I would suggest you make
sure to come to a Carting Clinic to get assistance.
will really appreciate why applying some obedience can be
helpful when carting, it helps harnessing up!
You sit/stand your dog, and harness your dog.
I try and make a big deal about harnessing up by
exclaiming, �We�re going to go work�.
Now when I reach for the harness and say �you wanna
work�, he�s hot on my heals, butt wiggling!
time you practice harnessing or simple obedience commands make
it fun! Make sure
to set yourself a course and a routine to practice, and each
time make it different. Just
make sure your dog is able to sit/stand stay, down stay, right
turn, left turn, and of course back up.
Working your dog on the harness will help them get use to
wearing and working in it.
your dog takes to the harness fairly quickly the next step will
be to add the idea in your dogs head that something will be
attached to the harness. One
of the oddest things I think is the look on a dogs face when
they believe something is indeed following them.
Do not despair, some dogs will not mind at all, but if
your dog is the one who continually turns and looks constantly
and starts to fight your commands to move forward because �hey
there is something back there following me!�
Be supportive and reassuring, keep walking and give a
brisk correction to focus their attention back on you �
let�s go! Don�t worry � Forward!
It will get better.
you have a �Siwash� harness there will be traces included,
those are attached to the loops at the end of the harness on
either side of the dog and will fall by the dogs rear quarters.
If you have a breastplate harness you will have no
traces, the harness hooks up directly to the Cart so you will
have to improvise, as I will describe, before you ever hook up
to a Cart.
the Siwash, hook up the traces and let the dog move in a
straight line, gradually make left and right hand turn under
command and in a positive manner so the dog will get use to
having something following them.
As you progress you can ad a small amount of
weight/substance to that by clipping empty plastic milk jugs or
PVC pipe to the end of each trace.
This will also create extra sound that the dog needs to
get use to � remember a cart will make noise when it travels
over grass or pavement � no one wants to have a dog become
spooked when hooked to a Cart, so get your dog use to all forms
of sound and exposure of dragging items under your control
attached to the harness way before hooking them up to a cart.
You will be very glad you did.
the Breastplate harness, you may want to fasten a rope to each
loop and run that about three feet behind the dog on either
side. You may also
use two six foot leashes clipped to either side and in the same
manner have them drag the rope or leashes first, working in a
forward pattern, then right turn, left turn, halt and sit or
down. When they
seem comfortable add on empty milk jugs or PVC pipe and make
sure they are as comfortable dragging those around before going
to the next step.
would advise working in your back yard using commands such as
forward/heel, right turn, left turn, halt/woe, stay,
sit-stay/down-stay over and over again in a pattern you create
for your dog before ever going out to a park.
I wouldn�t advise going out to a park until once you
are comfortable long after you have finally hooked up to your
next issue will discuss hooking up to the Cart � there will be
a slight difference in hooking up depending on whether you
bought a two-wheel performance Cart or a Sulky.
We will review the steps you need to take before actually
hooking your dog to the Cart.
In the meantime practice your backing up � but do not
do it while dragging anything, the dog may step on it and be
spooked � only do it with the harness on, that will reinforce
the command while the dog is harnessed.
Remember the dog only needs to back up three feet
- which is about three forward steps by you.
luck, practice at least three times a week and Let�s Roll!!!!
|Stress and Behavioral Problems
- Best Buddy Dog Training & Daycare Facility
I believe 95% of all behavioral problems stem from one of three areas: (1) lack of physical and
mental stimulation, (2) early puppy/house training and (3) unrealistic expectations from the owner.
LACK OF PHYSICAL/MENTAL STIMULATION
Dogs are working animals but through domestication and modern technology they are no longer
worked. Home alone for 8 hours followed by a walk around the neighborhood or a run in the yard
is not enough physical or mental stimulation. Dogs need exercise (walks, swimming, retrieving) but
your dog would much rather exercise with you than by itself in your yard.
But exercise with no mental stimulation will make your dog crazy. The working instinct in your
dog demands for it to use its brain. If you don't allow your dog to use its brain for good behavior,
you can believe it will use it for bad behavior or strange behavior. Types of negative behavior I
have seen are: aggression, dominance, animal aggression, fear of everything, excessive barking,
jumping, chewing, spinning in circles, excessive licking of themselves, diarrhea, destructiveness,
digging, chewing their own tails/feet, hair loss or bad coats, dermatitis, excessive weight gain and
lack of attention.
Obedience not only teaches your dog self-control but also allows it to think and respond, i.e. using
its mind/work. Teaching your dog anything from tricks to simple obedience commands gives it an
outlet and allows thought processes to over-ride negative behavior. I believe a dog needs a
minimum of 40 minutes to 1 hour of exercise (retrieve, running, etc.) a day and a � hour of
training a day. All exercise or all work will not control negative behavior. A happy medium of both
will make your dog happy and well adjusted.
The first thing a dog learns is housebreaking. This is the basis for your dog�s future attitude
towards training. Negative housebreaking will lead to a negative attitude throughout life and lead
to unneeded stress. I never housebreak a puppy. My puppies are crate trained (in a crate when I
can not supervise) or kenneled outside in my yard when I am unable to supervise so he/she can
eliminate whenever needed. This way there is no unneeded stress placed upon the puppy by the
owners. I would never allow even a 2-year-old dog of mine to have free run of my house. A
2 year-old is still young and I never want to stress my dog when there is a way I can avoid it. Even if
you do not yell or hit your dog when he/she eliminates in your home, your body language and
attitude show the stress and your dog picks up on it. If you ask people who own dogs with the
negative behaviors that I mentioned above, most will say they had a difficult time housebreaking
Keep it simple: if your dog is eliminating in your home � use a crate or the outdoors when you are
unable to supervise. Always put your dog and yourself in a position to win or solve a problem.
When you adopt or buy a puppy/dog and bring it into your home, it is important that you remember
to treat it like a dog. Some behavioral problems have to do with genetics (and can be controlled
early on) but most are learned from the owners. If your dog is exhibiting some unwanted behavior,
it is the time to analyze how you treat him. Yes, your dog is part of your family but when dealing
with him treat him like a dog (like his mother would) not a human. They don�t think like humans
and they don�t feel like humans. Don�t try to associate how you feel with how they should feel � its
not the same. My dogs are my family and I would protect them and defend them till my own death
but I treat them like dogs. Treating your dog like a human leads to stress. Your dog should feel
that you love him but that you are the master and his leader not his equal. Stress results from
when you expect your dog to:
- listen to obedience commands when you hardly ever work him
- know that he can only eliminate outdoors
- know when someone is welcome in your home rather than a stranger
- know that he can jump on you but not your grandmother
- know that he can �play bite� you but not your 2-year-old son
- know that he should immediately respond to the command �come� but it�s not important to respond
immediately to the command �sit
- expect him to sit at home all day long and not want your attention when you come home from work
- know when to protect his house and territory and when not to
These are unrealistic expectations that your dog should not have to live up to. In a pack
environment the alpha makes the decisions � YOU MUST BE ALPHA and make all decisions.
Decision making is stressful and leads to negative behavior. Before you act or react, give your dog
a command � give him something to do. Don�t allow him to react on his own, for example: give him
the command sit/stay when opening your front door or car door.
If your dog does not believe you are �in command� or the �alpha�, he will make his own decisions
and they will be negative. You are in charge. My dogs are stress free because I make all decisions.
� the only thing my dogs have to think about is the command I gave them and that they need to
- Best Buddy Dog Training & Daycare Facility
How old is too old for a dog to learn?
Two questions that I get asked most often and usually in the same breath are �is my dog too old to be trained?�, and, �what do you think of Cesar Milan
(the author of several books and star of his own show on Cable
Television)?� To you, these are two separate questions, but both questions can be answered using almost the same context.
Is my dog too old to learn?
No, I think any dog can be trained, no matter the age, breed or temperament. Dogs are followers. Man domesticated the dog because man needed a friend, and dogs allowed themselves to be domesticated because they needed a pack leader. When I am re-training or doing behavior modification with a �problem dog�, I have to look beyond the dog and look at the family and household. Most problems are perpetuated by the humans in the house whether they realize it or not. Once I show the owners how they are allowing this behavior to take place, and show them how to institute the rules as I have explained, their dogs do not revert to the �problem behavior�. Problem solved!
But, every so often, I come across a person who is in denial of their part in the dog�s behavior or worse yet, refuses to change how they handle their dog or treat their dog so a change can come about. This is the same person who will go through 4 and 5 trainers until they find the answers they want to hear. But, please realize, the answers never changed, the only thing that changed was the manner in which the solution was presented, hence, their new found wonderful �behaviorist�.
In order for the dog�s behavior to change, the owners must change how they handle and lead their dog. The owners sometimes do not want to take on the role as Alpha or Pack leader; do not want to set rules or do not want to believe that their dog is �acting like a dog�. In plain English, most times it is the owners that are refusing to change, and hence the dog�s behavior never changes.
Dogs do what is good for them, what satisfies their needs at that time. That may mean obeying you or not, dogs do what is good for them at that moment. It is up to the owner to establish him or herself as Pack Leader and not to allow unacceptable behavior. When the owner acts as the Pack Leader the dog realizes (a) obedience is not an option and (b) there is a consequence to acting �outside of the pack rules�.
And, yes, I think the verbal information Cesar Milan gives on his program is great. Cesar makes training seem very easy, it is not. That is my problem with his program. It is not the sound that Cesar makes or the way he touches a dog; neither you nor I can duplicate the way in which Cesar trains. Training a dog may be easy for Cesar and for me, because we are professional and natural born dog leaders. But training a dog is not easy and does not come naturally or easily to many people.
I�m sure there is a lot of groundwork that is done that we as television viewers do not see. But what I do like about Cesar�s show is that if you really listen to his answers, most dog behavioral problems are not about re-training the dog, but re-training the owner or human in the manner in which they live or handle their dog; that is the difficult part!
Cesar spends a great part of his show listening to the owner�s problems. He then explains to these owners that they are allowing their dog to exhibit this undesirable behavior by treating their dog as a human and not as a dog. And of course they must establish themselves as the Alpha.
Teach your dog to be a follower
The only way behavioral problems go away is if you teach your dog that his behavior is unacceptable and he must follow your lead as Alpha. A dog does not want to be pack leader; that is a stressful role for a dog. He must protect and make decisions in a world where he doesn�t understand the language, all but a few words anyway!
That is like me asking you to take over as leader in a different country in which you do not understand the customs or the language. This stress that the owner gives the dog creates the improper behavior and the dog just reacts the way he knows how, like a dog. Then he gets punished for acting like a dog! It�s a �lose- lose� situation for the dog.
It is up to you, the reasoning human, to take over the leadership position, change the way in which you handle your dog, set some rules and boundaries and be prepared to enforce the rules should they be broken by your beloved pet. Now your dog can go back to being a dog, a role he understands! He wants to be a follower, which should be his role in your home. Once you establish clear and consistent rules for your dog to follow, his behavior will change. But the moment you allow misbehavior or a breaking of the rules, you will see your dog�s unwanted behavior rear its ugly head again.
Yes, any dog can be trained and re-trained at any age, but are you the owner willing to make changes in your life and in the life of your dog so the training has a chance of success? I never guarantee the dog will not go back to the problem behavior because, frankly, I am never convinced the humans in the household are up to the challenge of the change in themselves. No one can guarantee their training methods will work because it is not the dog we are worried about, it is the change in the human that we are worried about. Unfortunately, I have met very few humans who make me confident that they are up to the challenge of changing themselves.
If you are not willing to make a change in yourself and maybe your lifestyle, your dog�s behavior is not going to change. If you are willing to change and realize maybe you have to alter your lifestyle a little bit, yes, any behavior can be trained out of your dog. No, the change will not happen overnight but once you acknowledge the changes that need to be made and you stop creating excuses for why the training will not work, you will see a huge difference in your dog and the life which you live with your dog will be dramatically changed for the better.
Beth Bradley began studying animal behavior and dog training at 12 years of age. She became a New Jersey State Animal Control Officer in 1986. Beth graduated Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminal Justice. Throughout her schooling, Beth worked and studied under many well-renowned animal behaviorists and trainers. Beth formed her own company in 1989 and has made dog training her full time career since 1995. Beth is also a writer for the Animal Companion, she has produced CD-ROMs and DVD�s on training and is author of a training book titled Real World Dog Training.
Beth is a member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America � Working Dog Association, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America, and she is Secretary and Training Director of the Greater Philadelphia Schutzhund Club. Beth actively competes in both American Kennel Club and Schutzhund Trials both in the United States of America and Europe. Beth is a certified Canine Good Citizen Evaluator for the American Kennel Club. Beth can be contacted via the web at
www.dog-trainer.biz or her business (973) 742-5088.
Kathy Diamond Davis
Author of the book Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others
People commonly assume their new dogs who come with unknown histories have been victims of abuse. Though a dog�s behavior may seem to point to it, most of these dogs have not been abused. Whether or not abuse has occurred, the assumption can prevent people from giving their dogs the right support for success in a new chance at life.
What Has this Dog Been Through?
Dogs reared as puppies with perfect handling seldom land in need of adoption through shelters and rescues. This does not mean a dog is a poor risk for adoption. It does mean you should expect to work with the dog to overcome past deficits.
Socialization is an often unmet need in a dog who gives the impression of prior abuse. To become the most confident adult dog, a puppy needs to be positively exposed to a wide variety of people, places and things when young. These experiences build a puppy�s belief in being able to cope with the world.
A puppy who doesn�t have this variety of positive experiences can become fearful or aggressive toward many situations in adolescence and adulthood. When the dog behaves badly toward something, it�s easy to jump to the conclusion this thing has been involved with prior abuse. More likely, the pup didn�t get enough experience with this situation and is afraid simply because it�s strange.
Some dogs have had socialization experiences, but they were frightening. Another dog may have attacked or scared the pup. People may have handled outings badly, so now the dog expects bad things to happen on outings. Going out expecting trouble can bring trouble.
A dog who reacts badly to children may have been teased by kids over a backyard fence. Some strange dynamic makes children think a barking dog �deserves� to be teased, and then of course the dog gets even more upset. The results are bad for both kids and dogs.
Adults are often guilty of teasing confined dogs, too. Especially problematic is the dog stuck on a tie-out with other dogs and humans in the vicinity causing frustration. This can wreak havoc with a dog�s temperament.
The tie-out can have similar effects to protection training not done well. People sometimes mess up this training in misguided efforts to gain personal security from their dogs. When a dog has been taught to use teeth against people without having the proper temperament and training, the dog may act in ways that make people assume prior abuse.
People in the home, especially the children, may handle a dog thoughtlessly, not intending abuse. Whether or not this treatment constitutes abuse depends on your point of view.
The same is true for harsh training people may have resorted to from frustration and poor information when dealing with normal dog behavior. Housetraining, puppy nipping, and adolescent destructive chewing are all opportunities to build a good relationship with a young dog�or to cause harm to the dog�s mind.
When a dog has too many bad experiences of this world and too few good ones, it�s understandable that the dog doesn�t expect good things. You want your dog to trust humans, be confident around other dogs, and to generally have good self-esteem. The wrong start in life may have taken some of those things from this dog. Temperament weaknesses from the dog�s genetic heritage may play a big role, too.
A New Start
Dogs are remarkable for their adaptability. When a dog moves to your home, the dog is open to learning new rules and getting to know new people. If you have the ability to fulfill the needs of the dog you chose, the dog will quickly recognize that.
What are those needs? The answer will surprise you. The dog coming to you from a bad start in life will not benefit from your having low expectations.
Select a dog not out of pity, but because you like and admire this dog. Get your dream dog. This dog�s behavior may be rough around the edges and the body in need of tender loving care. Evaluate honestly whether you�re equipped to provide that care.
It�s not helping a dog for you to adopt and then not be able to afford veterinary treatment. It�s also essential that you can make the commitment to the training this dog needs. Otherwise, let someone else adopt the dog. Pick a breed or mix you know is right for you and an individual dog you would have chosen in other circumstances. Make sure the timing is right for you to take on the responsibility of a dog.
Thinking a dog has been abused can become an emotional trap that causes people to adopt dogs they can�t afford to properly care for or don�t have time to train. Whether or not there has been abuse, a dog in need of a home needs the right home. Sometimes the way for you to help a dog is to find the perfect human match for that dog.
The abuse notion hurts a dog if it results in human actions motivated by pity that don�t give the dog needed care. Remember that most of these dogs are in dire need of training, and will be more difficult to train than if they hadn�t had a bad start. Don�t adopt the dog with the idea that your home is better than the previous one, because �anything would be better than that.� Help get the dog into a home that fits.
The Real Abuse Victim
In cases where it�s known the dog was abused, either from witnesses or from physical damage a veterinarian can assess, the dogs often do well. You want to show this dog that humans are fair, kind, and trustworthy�unlike the people in the past.
To a dog, part of what makes someone trustworthy is that the person lives by consistent rules. Dogs thrive on limits and feel more secure with these clear parameters. Don�t make the mistake of removing structure and training from the life of a dog who has been abused. That is not a kindness.
Dogs need to feel necessary. They need to feel they can enhance their own security by their actions. Think about this when you consider adopting a dog who has had a bad start in life, whether or not it�s known the dog was abused.
If you adopt, will it be because in some way you need this dog? Can you provide this dog with a good life? Purpose can be the path to healing both body and mind, for dogs as well as humans.
Include expert evaluation of the dog in your adoption decision. Veterinary examination and expert behavior evaluation are both important. Neither evaluation can be absolutely conclusive, but can catch a lot of problems you�d miss on your own. If you go ahead with the adoption, you�ll be able to better meet the dog�s needs right from the start.
If a dog has been abused, neglected, or victim to unintended mistreatment, don�t let the past define that dog�s future. What we say of people, that the best aid is �a hand up, not a handout� is also true of dogs.